A couple months ago, I watched The Sandlot: Heading Home, mentioning here that I had actually been looking for The Sandlot 2 when I stumbled upon that third installment of the series instead. This weekend, I finally did manage to get my hands on a copy of The Sandlot 2.
This chapter of the Sandlot series follows the typical formula of all the movies in the collection. There is the group of main characters comprising the beloved sandlot team, including a leader, a nerdy kid, a chubby kid, and a ladies’ man. There is a rival, cocky Little League team that challenges the sandlot team and engages in a name-calling contest with them. And the primary conflict of the film revolves around a battle for the sandlot itself.
The Sandlot 2 introduces us to Johnnie Smalls, who, we eventually learn, is the younger brother of the one and only Scotty Smalls. Johnnie is the narrator of the story and proves himself just as nerdy as his big brother, spending his time playing with model rockets. The leader of this story’s sandlot team is David Durango, who also finds himself battling puberty and his sudden interest in girls.
One girl, in particular, is Hayley Goodfairer. In addition to being attractive, Hayley proves herself a particularly talented softball pitcher. At first, the boys of the sandlot are miffed when Hayley and her friends start using the sandlot to play softball, but after a couple of contentious face-offs, the boys and the girls agree to join together into a single team.
We learn that the Beast, Hercules, has passed away, but not before leaving behind some puppies. One of those puppies grew into the newest sandlot terror, known as “The Great Fear.” As Scotty’s younger brother, Johnnie knows all about the Beast and the Great Fear, and passes the legend onto the sandlot’s latest tenants.
Like his big brother, Johnnie gets himself into a bit of a pickle. But instead of a baseball, he launches a rocket that does not belong to him, and it lands on the other side of the fence, in the territory belonging to the Great Fear. The sandlot kids rally, but as before, nothing seems to work to get the rocket back. Finally, the Benny Rodriguez of this tale, David Durango, decides to step up, facing his own fears as he hops the fence to take on the Great Fear. James Earl Jones reprises his role as Mr. Mertle, which is certainly a treat for fans.
Aside from the inclusion of girls in the new team, there’s very little in this movie that the original Sandlot doesn’t already offer. If you’re an especially big fan of the Sandlot and you don’t mind the cheesiness of it all, this is still an entertaining way to pass a couple hours, and it is chock full of nostalgia. If you’re looking for something new, however, maybe pass on this one.
I’ve done a handful of posts about the poem “Casey At the Bat” by Ernest L. Thayer. The poem first appeared in the San Francisco Examiner on June 3, 1888, originally published under the pen name “Phin” because Thayer felt embarrassed to have written what he considered “bad verse.” When others came forward to claim the work as their own, however, Thayer revealed himself as the true author.
To celebrate the anniversary of this classic poem, here’s a recording of James Earl Jones reciting the piece. (And, yes, it’s pretty awesome.)
“Is this Heaven?”
“No. It’s Iowa.”
Last night, I re-watched one of the best baseball movies of all time: Field of Dreams. Released in 1989, Field of Dreams tells the story of a baseball fanatic-turned-farmer who plows under his own corn field at the bidding of a mysterious, whispering voice. In spite of the insistence of fellow townsfolk that his actions are nothing short of lunacy, Ray Kinsella believes that the voice is real, and that his actions will ultimately produce results that will more than make up for the financial strain his family faces as a result of plowing under his own crops. And it is this belief in the impossible that not only forms the crux of the story, but draws the attention and inspires awe in those who watch it.
In addition to enjoying the movie itself, last night I took the time to watch the special features included on the two-DVD set. The actors of the movie (Kevin Costner, James Earl Jones, Ray Liotta, etc.) and the director (Phil Alden Robinson) discuss their experiences with the filming of the movie. The way they all describe it, even the making of the movie was magical, and it wasn’t just because it features a superstar cast. The scenes within the movie–the story, the environment in which the movie was filmed–it all coalesced into one magical work of art.
And we get to experience the results of that experience, that hard work and that magic, through this film. For some, Field of Dreams brings back childhood memories of playing catch in the backyard with one’s father. For others, it is a testament to the magic and influence of the game of baseball. And even for those who have little or no interest in the game itself, this movie resonates as an ode to that spirit within all of us that yearns to break away from the norm in pursuit of something bigger than ourselves.
Field of Dreams consists of many moments that give me the chills, even after a hundred viewings of the movie. That first whisper of, “If you build it, he will come.” The initial arrival of Shoeless Joe Jackson on the newly built baseball field. The inexplicable appearance of Dr. Archibald “Moonlight” Graham on the dark, damp streets of Boston. Watching Ray Kinsella have a catch with his father, thus washing away years of resentment and pain. Terence Mann’s “people will come” speech towards the end, arguably one of James Earl Jones’s most memorable performances.
More than anything, Field of Dreams is a movie about redemption and fulfillment. Redemption for the likes of Ray Kinsella, who is able to start over with his father, and for Shoeless Joe Jackson, who finally can play baseball without the Black Sox scandal hanging over him. Meanwhile, author Terence Mann comes out of reclusion and finds a reason to write again, and Moonlight Graham fulfills a lifelong dream of facing a big league pitcher. It’s a movie that reminds us that we can all find redemption, for ourselves and for others, if only we are willing to take the steps, however crazy or impossible they might seem.
It’s a classic in the world of baseball movies and beyond: The Sandlot. And this month, April 2013, marks twenty years (!) since the release of this family comedy. As I re-watched the flick last night, I was reminded of seeing it for the first time in elementary school and thinking, like so many other kids my age, about how cool it would be to have that kind of summertime experience.
The Sandlot introduces us to Scotty Smalls, the nerdy new kid in town who manages to befriend the local sandlot baseball team. He meets Benjamin Franklin Rodriguez, the town baseball star, who not only teaches Smalls the fundamentals of the game, but also secures his own status as the neighborhood legend as he helps Smalls out of the biggest pickle of his life.
It is a movie that continues to hold a special place in my memory, as well as in pop culture today. Who among us has not heard the phrase “You’re killing me, Smalls” in the last year? And even though I am speaking from a girl’s perspective, I’m pretty sure that even the guys in my class had unvoiced crushes on Benny “The Jet” Rodriguez.
Then, of course, you’ve got James Earl Jones playing Mr. Mertle. Even though he only made a small appearance at the end of the film, there’s no denying that the movie simply would not be the same without him in this role. “I take it back. You’re not in trouble. You’re dead where you stand,” Mr. Mertle announced to Smalls, upon learning that the baseball, now chewed up by the Beast, was signed by one George Herman Ruth. He delivered the line perfectly, and the look on Smalls’ face was priceless.
So we’ve got baseball, a kid legend, a giant, killer dog, Babe Ruth, and James Earl Jones. What’s not to love about this movie? Here’s to you, Sandlot. Your legacy will, no doubt, continue to be celebrated for another twenty years… and beyond!
King, Matt. “The Sandlot 20th Anniversary: 20 Reasons It Was the Greatest Movie Ever Made.” Bleacher Report. Bleacher Report, Inc. Turner Broadcasting System, Inc., 5 April 2013. Web. Accessed 11 April 2013. http://bleacherreport.com/articles/1435469-the-sandlot-20th-anniversary-20-reasons-it-was-the-greatest-movie-ever-made/
“The Sandlot.” The Internet Movie Database (IMDb). IMDb.com, Inc., 1990-2013. Web. Accessed 11 April 2013. http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0108037/
“Top 5 James Earl Jones Roles.” Everything Action. EverythingAction.com, 17 September 2011. Web. Accessed 11 April 2013. http://www.everythingaction.com/2011/09/17/top-5-james-earl-jones-roles/